Bolivia!!! At Maximum Volume!!!

by Alison Donald
(Bella News Ezine Editor)

Rrrrrringgggg Rrrrrringgggg! Escobas! Escobas!

Rrrrrringgggg Rrrrrringgggg! Escobas! Escobas!

A few days ago I watched a critical part of what is probably otherwise a poor film (I don't know, I didn't bother to watch the rest of it). The lead character had a magic remote control that allowed him to reduce the volume of his barking dog. I immediately thought "where can I get one of these?"

But if I had such a device, Bolivia for me would not be Bolivia.

South America is loud and sociable and doesn't have an off switch or volume control. To my mind, you can trace this back to the home. Full carpeting and/or rugs are unusual here, with tiled floors being the norm. So sound carries and people are used to noise all the time. Not only will you get through plates a lot faster than you used to in your home country, you are also likely to be better acquainted with the habits of everyone you share your space with, as well as your neighbours on each side.

Charis regaled us earlier in the week with her tale of almost being driven mad by a rogue car alarm and an owner that didn't care. Car alarms very rarely go off for longer than a minute or so in my neighbourhood (possibly because no-one would dare leave a car worthy of a car alarm parked out of their sight and sound).

On an average day we have the honking of the truck selling bottled gas, the fruit man who drives veeeerrrrry slooowwwlly announcing his wares via his megaphone (I've never been good with understanding megaphone announcements in my own language so I am lost with this. From a distance all I hear is "mandarinalalallala"), the icecream and cold drink sellers who go through the streets with their little carts armed with a bicycle bell or horn, engines backfiring, dogs barking, the steel security door of the tiny shop being rolled up and down, the constant slam of the gates on our building, the night watchman in his tiny hut on the corner blowing his whistle in the belief this will stop anyone trying to break into the paint shop...

the taxi drivers beeping to attract a fare (you think I don't know how to get a taxi, or that if you beeped at me I would suddenly change my mind and just get in a taxi instead of do what I originally intended?), the screeching of tyres as vehicles try to avoid crashing into the back of the micro which failed to signal to stop, the angry shouting of the driver of said vehicle "Ca&*^o!", the cars that slow down as they pass you so that someone inside can shout "gringaaaa hermosssaaaa" at you...

crackers (firecrackers) at the parades in the city centre every Monday, the brass band that plays in our street every other Friday until the early hours if not sunrise, the regular excuses for fireworks, the protest marches and sit-ins (and their crackers), the money changers on the street corners who shake dollars in your face and ask "cambio?", the market sellers calling out "para llevar?" (what will you take?), the porter practising his English greetings (or shoutings) on me every time I leave or enter our building...

the constant chatter on mobile phones in every location (except, of course, when they are being used as devices to blast music), changing a channel on the TV and going up 10 notches in volume, builders working at all hours, the hum from whatever machinery is in the office below our flat, our neighbour's son running around shouting happily outside or screaming and crying inside the lobby...

the mobile pirated DVD sellers who parade up and down Avenida Monseñor Rivero attracting the attention of those in the pavement seats of the smart cafes. Sirens from emergency service vehicles are rare.

Bolivia doesn't have an off switch or a volume control, and in reality that's the way I like it.

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Jul 02, 2011
Great article April
by: BoliviaBella

I really enjoyed reading your article April. Thanks for sharing that. Feel free to share more! Bella.

Jul 02, 2011
Yes! Music to my ears!
by: April

I spent 6 weeks in Bolivia Sept. 2010 - most of it in Cochabamba. Bolivia is a kaleidescope of colour and sound and I loved it. LOVED it. I wrote a blog - Wisdom by Tea I'll open it just for you.

...and here's my post.


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